Clark Handicap (Churchill Downs) Predictions, Odds & Picks
If you're playing only to win, go with my top pick Aurelius Maximus (8/1)
Post Position and Odds – Clark Handicap
Check out our predictions and odds for the 2020 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs!
|B Hernandez Jr.||K McPeek|
|C Lanerie||D Stewart|
|3||CODE OF HONOR||3/1|
|J Velazquez||C McGaughey|
|T Gaffalione||P Miller|
|R Santana Jr.||S Asmussen|
|6||PLUS QUE PARFAIT||30/1|
|R Albarado||B Walsh|
|D Cohen||D Romans|
|R Bejarano||G Delgado|
|F Geroux||B Cox|
|J Leparoux||I Wilkes|
|J Talamo||D Romans|
|12||BY MY STANDARDS||7/2|
|G Saez||W B Calhoun|
|D Cannon||B Lynch|
|G Corrales||S Asmussen|
|15||IN LOVE – AE||20/1|
|R Albarado||P Lobo|
Best Bets for the Clark Handicap
Here are my plays ($78 in total)
$5 Exacta box Aurelius Maximus, Code of Honor, By My Standards and Coastal Defence = $60
$3 Exacta box Aurelius Maximus, Code of Honor and Owendale = $18
Aurelius Maximus (8/1)
Code of Honor tops a field of 14 set for Friday’s 146th edition of the Grade 1 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs. As the highlight of the fall meeting, the 1 1/8-mile Clark carries a purse of $500,000 and also includes multiple graded stakes winners By My Standards, Mr. Freeze, and Owendale.
Trained by Shug McGaughey, Code of Honor is a multiple Grade 1 winner who accounted for both the Travers and the Jockey Club Gold Cup in 2019. The 4-year-old son of Noble Mission won the Grade 3 Westchester to begin this season but has lost 3 straight races while facing stiff competition. Most recently he rallied for second in the Grade 2 Kelso at Belmont Park.
Chief among his competition will be By My Standards who finished first or second in his first six races this year, including victories in the New Orleans Classic, Oaklawn Handicap, and Alysheba, all of which are Grade 2. Most recently he faded out of contention in the 10-furlong Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Owendale and Mr. Freeze also come out of the Breeders’ Cup, having finished fifth and sixth respectively in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. Before that Mr. Freeze won the Grade 2, Fayette, his second graded stakes win of the season. Owendale, meanwhile, was second in this race last year for trainer Brad Cox and a stakes winner at Churchill Downs earlier this season.
How to Watch the Clark Handicap
|Clark Handicap Race Information|
|What||Clark Handicap (Grade 1)|
|When||Friday, November 27 — 5:27 PM Eastern time|
|How to Watch||Fox Sports 2|
Code of Honor
It has been a bit of a tough year for the resounding winner of the Travers last year, as well as three other graded stakes. He started off well with a win in the Westchester, but in the three starts since has been unable to reel in the speed. Still, he hasn’t performed poorly, and in his last race, he did everything that could be expected of him with the talented Complexity lose on an easy lead. On Friday, he shouldn’t have to worry about a lack of pace, as it looks like there will be enough early speed to ensure an honest race. It will be then up to regular rider Johnny Velazquez to make out a good rallying trip for the classy runner. All in all, it looks like he should be primed for this one, a race he has been pointed to. He is the one to beat.
By My Standards
After a disappointing run in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, the son of Goldencents returns to his home base of Churchill Downs and to a more favorable distance of 9 furlongs. Two starts back he turned away Owendale in the Alysheba over the track, and a return to that effort puts him in with a big chance in here. Rider Gabriel Saez will need to work to get position heading into the first turn from the 12-post, but if he can, this talented 4-year-old should sit a good stalking trip and have every chance to earn his fourth graded stakes win of 2020.
Last year’s runner-up has not found the winner’s circle since rallying up to win the Blame at Churchill Downs in May. It’s just that kind of trip I’d like to see him get in the Clark, as he seems best when able to relax early and make one big run. Unfortunately, the pace has not always been kind to the son of Into Mischief. If it is on Friday, he could join Code of Honor as those finishing fastest in the 14-horse field. His effort last time in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile was not bad, considering how the track was playing. I like a few others in here better but certainly cannot discount this one who won three graded stakes races last year.
He finished just behind Owendale last time in the Dirt Mile, which was his third sixth-place finish in his last four races. The good news is that he has obviously kept very good company, and he did beat a solid field in the Fayette two starts back. He should be a little more forwardly placed than he was in his last, which should help, but I just don’t know if he can get over the hump against a field this strong. As the third or fourth choice, I will take a stand against him this time around.
While Mr Freeze went straight to the Breeders’ Cup after his game win in the Fayette, this one had some more time to be fresh and ready for the Clark. It looked like he lost a little ground that day when in tight quarters, which could have been the difference. Now coming back for his third race off the layoff, I believe the well-bred colt has every reason in the world to make another step forward. Well-liked early on, he finally may be healthy enough to live up to his promise. He has more tactical speed than the majority of the field which should put him in a good position as the field turns for home. At the odds, he is my top play on Friday.
Like By My Standards, he was unable to do much in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, before that though he was a strong finishing third in the Fayette, which was one of the best performances of his career. At his best, he can rally into the picture against good horses, but he has never before beaten this type. In this deep edition of the Clark, he seems much more likely to settle for a smaller piece of the pie, rather than taking down the whole enchilada.
After an uninspiring start to his career with three mediocre efforts in South Florida, this well-bred son of Curlin has turned things around in Kentucky. He’s run five straight solid races over the past five months under rider Joe Talamo, who will again be in the saddle on Friday. His first stakes attempt came when he was stretched out to 9 furlongs last time when he finished fourth in the Fayette, but it was a good fourth. He tried all the way to the finish that day only losing by 1 ¼-lengths. The race before that he beat a nice 3-year-old Major Fed rather easily. With good experience under his belt, I now see him as a live longshot who could take a step forward at the right time.
Speed is always dangerous and this son of Bodemiester has plenty of it. Since finishing second behind Maximum Security in the Grade 1 Florida Derby last year, though, he has been unable to break through with a big effort against stakes competition in seven tries. Two starts back, he was beaten over the track by Aurelius Maximus, who was returning from a layoff. He seems like one who can dominate lesser but cannot beat the kind of horses he will find in the Clark.
The only 3-year-old in the field makes his second start back off the layoff in the Clark. A two-time graded stakes winner, one of which came at Churchill Downs, he merits consideration in here, especially coming off a nice return win over the track. I do worry, though, that it looked like he was a full cut below top sophomores like Nadal earlier this year. This race looks every bit as tough as his seventh-place finish in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby. Perhaps with more maturity, and his fondness for the track, he can make some noise, but I cannot play him against these breaking from the 14-post.
This one made a nice late surge to get up and win a local allowance race over Bourbon Calling in his last race. While it was a good prep, he now finds himself in against Grade 1 competition. Two starts back, he faded out of the competition against several in this field in the Fayette. He was a good grass horse who has proven in his last three starts to do just fine on dirt. His last race does make me think he is in with a chance, but I am not sure 9 furlongs will be his best distance. A longshot to consider, but I do like others better.
The consistent rallier has been stepping up in distance lately with decent results, having finished second in the Grade 3 Ack Ack and then narrowly missing in a recent allowance race. Both of those came at Churchill Downs, so you know he can handle the track. The problem is he now stretches out another sixteenth and finds a very difficult group of horses to deal with. He’s a nice horse, who seldom fails to fire, but ultimately I believe this is just a little too tough.
A good second in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap back in March, he has not been able to validate that form in six subsequent races. He did finish fourth in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs three starts back, but he was well beaten, and this race is even deeper. His prep for this, a rallying second behind Silver Prospector, was decent enough to consider using at the bottom of the exotics, but anything better than that would be a surprise.
Plus Que Parfait
Since winning the Grade 2 UAE Derby in March of 2019, he has been defeated in nine straight races, including six in 2020, all of which came in easier spots than this. While there is some back class there, I just can’t see him making serious noise against this deep field on Friday.
In his only previous stakes try he finished way back on the turf at Ellis Park. While he did win his return to dirt, which came at Churchill Downs, it came against considerably cheaper. Against this bunch, he looks to have found much more than he can handle. Coming from the 13-post, he is a toss for me.
In Love – AE
He is also eligible, so he’ll only run if there is a late scratch. If he does get in, he becomes an interesting longshot making his first start on dirt in America. He had solid dirt form back in his native Argentina, and his two races so far in the US, both on turf, were good. Consider using in your exotics if he somehow draws into the Clark field.
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Taken to the races at a very young age, Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Professionally, his work has been published on several leading industry sites. Brian served as the Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, where he still writes a regular column and hosts the popular weekly webcast HorseCenter.
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